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Yes, I CAN! Learn how to can classes ~ Tennessee
Thu May 03, 2012 6:48 pmForum Host
If you think canning is just something your grandmother did ages ago, think again.
“We’ve got all ages and both genders taking classes,” said UT-TSU Extension agent Pat Whitaker, who will be teaching a canning class next Thursday at the Rutherford County Agricultural Extension office, 315 John Rice Blvd.
“I started going to the Farmers Market, and the produce was so good,” said Jessica Blair of Murfreesboro, who admittedly “dove head first” into canning last year.
Blair also subscribes to a Community Supported Agriculture club that delivers fresh, in-season produce to her each week. And she joined a local FCE (family consumer education) group.
Billy Baines of Murfreesboro likes to can vegetables from his own garden. Although he retired 2 ½ years ago, it wasn’t until last year that Baines attended a couple of Whitaker’s canning classes, and he, too, was hooked.
“I’ve always loved working in a garden and watch stuff grow … and being able to go out there and pick it myself. … But being able to eat that in the wintertime is awesome,” Baines said. “I can’t get enough of beets and green beans.”
He also cans butter beans, makes pickled green okra, salsa and green tomato relish that is a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Although Baines only puts up enough food to last through the winter, some of the items he cans, such as salsa, get better with age.
Baines does a lot of freezing vegetables and fruit such as strawberries and peaches, too.
But Whitaker said it’s not good to let the freezer be your only food preservation source. She found that out from community members after the Good Friday tornado hit Rutherford County three years ago — something she’d never thought of before. That summer, her canning classes were packed with people who lost freezers full of food because there was no electricity. “One person had three freezers full,” Whitaker said.
What to can
You are able to can just about anything, too, Blair said. “I’ve canned vegetable beef soup,” said Blair, who is currently attending culinary school in Nashville. You can even can just meat by itself, she added.
But Blair started out canning by making fruit jams and jellies, which was done by a less-expensive water-bath method of canning. After succeeding at that, the culinary student moved on to vegetables using a pressure canner.
“As I learned the process, I learned I could take advantage of in-season produce and have that all year round,” Blair said. “I don’t have to do a lot (of cooking) in the winter when it’s cold and I don’t want to go outside,” she joked.
Blair has also learned how to add her own touch to basic canning recipes. For instance, she added punch to basic canned apples by flavoring with amaretto — a staple transformed into a food fit for dessert.
Canning has also become popular due to economics.
“I’m cheap,” Blair joked. “I didn’t want to spend money at a grocery store when I could get higher-quality produce that was grown locally.”
Canning is also cheaper on the wallet because there is “only a one-time payment of electricity” when you are making a batch, and with a freezer, you have to pay to operate it monthly, Whitaker noted.
And, in a sense, canning is a form of recycling. “When you buy a can of green beans at the grocery, you throw the can into the garbage. When you can something at home, you can reuse that jar,” Blair said.
Whitaker said finding jars and canning supplies at yard and garage sales has become “the thing to do,” which is another way to recycle as well as save money.
Giving away home-canned goods as gifts saves money, too.
She has also become interested in “bringing back past traditions.”
“The way I grew up, canning was something my grandmother did. When I think of canning, it was something people did 50 years ago before modern technology existed. It’s something that is almost forgotten since our culture has grown,” Blair said.
Instead, she wants to go back to those healthful traditions of using fresh foods and avoids commercially processed foods as much as possible. Yes, it does take a bit of extra time, butshe loves cooking anyway.
Both Blair and her boyfriend enjoy the process together, and she said “it’s something families can do together.”
“It doesn’t have to be a daunting task,” Blair said. “Bring the kids into it and have a nice family activity.”
And enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Take note: the Rutherford County Farmers Market, held at Lane Agri-Park, will begin the summer/fall session on May 11. Times are 7 a.m. to noon each Tuesday and Friday. Staring this spring, credit, debit and EBT payment will be accepted.
About the canning classes
“Yes I Can … Learning the Basics of Canning” class taught by Pat Whitaker, Extension agent, and Pam Sites, volunteer, is set for noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the UT-TSU Rutherford County Extension, Lane Agri-Park, 315 John R. Rice Blvd., Murfreesboro. (Same session each time slot.)
Cost $10 person and $15 per couple and includes the UT Extension canning book.
Many people today are interested in growing and/or buying local foods and want to preserve them for use throughout the year. This process is not difficult. “Yes I Can” is an introductory workshop providing today's recommendations on how to safely can seasonal garden produce and speciality items.
Pre-registration is recommended by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling the Rutherford County Extension Office at 615-898-7710. Payment may be made at the door. Project costs, equipment needed, how to use a pressure canner or boiling water bath canner, types of pack, safe methods and procedures, storage, and resources.
If you can’t make it to a canning class, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website — the “gold standard” for canning tips — at www.uga.edu/nchfp/.
• Canning session 1
“Canning College-Preserve Foods Safely” will be held at 6 p.m. June 21. Learn about canning jams, jellies and fruit, along with freezer basics and making freezer jams.
• Canning session 2
Vegetable canning at 6 p.m. June 28. Learn about canning vegetables and low-acid foods, as well as drying foods.
Cost is $20 for either session or $30 for both. Pre-registration and payment is required.
• Tomato Talk at the Lane Agri-Park Farmers Market will be held at 9 a.m. July 13. Learn about selecting, preparing and canning tomatoes, and making salsa.
For information, call 615-898-7710
Courtesy of The Tennessean
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